Friday Photo: Riding in Heels

I’ve been saving this post for a special occasion, and I think today is it. We’re celebrating the fact that the blog has had over 2,000 page views! First, my favorite 18th century print:

From the collection of Colonial Williamsburg

This is “The Female Fox Hunter,” produced in London ca. 1770. The level of detail in this print is wonderful, from the gentleman tumbling off his horse in the background to the delicate heel on the lady’s shoe. That’s right, the 18th century version of ladies’ sportswear included high heels, which didn’t stop women from jumping fences on galloping horses in pursuit of their quarry. She’s wearing a riding habit with her heels, an outfit composed of a shirt, necktie or cravat, waistcoat, jacket, and petticoat; the riding habit was based on the cut of men’s clothes and worn as casual dress for active pursuits. Some English Ladies had habits made to match the uniforms of the military regiments led by their husbands. The most famous portrait showing this type of habit was painted in the 1770s by Joshua Reynolds and shows the scandalous Lady Seymour Worsley:

I could write a lengthy blog post just on Lady Worsley, but instead I’ll just tell you to read the book “Lady in Red” by Hallie Rubenhold; it’s a juicy story complete with gossip, adultery, court proceedings, and a May-December romance.

To view (or, if you’re like me, drool over) extant examples of 18th-century riding habits, click here, here, and here. And hopefully you’ll be inspired by the female fox hunter and refuse to let seemingly inappropriate footwear get in the way of your sporting pursuits!


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